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Library plans drive for $3.5m

By Ellen Ishkanian
Globe Correspondent / May 13, 2012
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Library users in Sherborn are being asked to raise $3.5 million over the next two to three years to match state funding for an expansion and renovation of the existing outdated building.

The 42-year-old Sherborn Library, located next to Town Hall, serves as the center of this community of 4,200 residents, with its lawn serving as the town green, according to Stacey Brandon, chairwoman of Board of Library Trustees.

“We call the library the living room of the community,” she said.

Brandon also said she is “very, very optimistic” that the money will be raised to match the grant from the state Board of Library Commissioners; the funds will be used to bring the library up to accessibility codes, add a children’s room and community room, update mechanical systems to energy efficiency standards, and make other building repairs.

“We have a huge amount of library users in this town, and usage has continued to grow, especially recently,” Brandon said.

Earlier this month, the town received confirmation that it was being added to the waiting list for a matching grant from the state, bringing the number of communities eligible for the aid program to 19.

Sherborn, which is requesting $3.6 million, was placed at number 18; the top five communities on the list are Reading, Belmont, Edgartown, Salisbury, and Framingham.

The state library board estimates that it has enough funding for the first seven projects on the list, provided the communities secure enough local funding to match its contribution, according to Celeste Bruno, a spokeswoman for the agency.

Beyond that, library supporters are working toward a new bond authorization that would provide funding for the rest of the projects, she wrote in an e-mail.

Brandon said that since state funds are contingent upon matching funds from the town, the trustees and the Friends of the Sherborn Library are gearing up to launch a capital campaign.

She expects the money to be raised through private donations, but if the $3.5 million goal is not reached, Brandon said, the trustees will ask the town to cover the shortfall.

A matching challenge grant of $400,000 has already been donated by the Richard Saltonstall Charitable Foundation. The money will be given in equal installments over the next five years contingent on one-for-one matching donations from Sherborn residents, according to library trustee Mary Moore.

“We’re in a quiet phase now, getting ourselves organized,’’ Brandon said.

She said the campaign should get its official start at the annual Sherborn Library Arts and Crafts Fair, to be held on its lawn June 2.

The centerpiece of the Sherborn Library’s expansion will be the separate children’s room, according to Elizabeth Johnston, the library’s director.

“We’ll have a conventional children’s area instead of just a part of an open area as it is now,” she said.

The proposed 4,870-square-foot children’s space will include bathrooms, vestibules, book stacks, a computer and research area, a tutoring and quiet study area, a crafts area, and the “treehouse room” for story time, Johnston said.

“Right now there is no place for quiet study or research,” Brandon said. “Once the children’s room is complete, all that will be fixed.”

The library is built on the side of a hill, and the expansion will be on the downward slope, Johnston explained, so the new children’s room will be on the first-floor level, and a lower level housing a community room will be built underneath with direct access outdoors. The lower level will include a kitchen.

The project will add an elevator, making all levels accessible, including a second-floor meeting room that now goes unused. Upstairs and basement bathrooms will also be brought up to accessibility codes.

Accessible bathrooms on the ground level and an automatic front door will be installed this year after voters last week agreed to spend $52,000 for the project, which will not be made obsolete with the major renovation. In addition, Johnston said improvements and updates will make the building more energy efficient and take care of deferred maintenance such as replacing foggy windows and the roof.

“The building is pretty old, and it’s held up well, but its time has come,” Johnston said.

In Millis, construction is underway on a $7.8 million library using $2.8 million in state grant money, which took 10 years of planning and waiting before the funds were secured and ground was broken.

The timetable is similar in Sherborn, where Johnston said discussions about updating the library began in 2006. Since then, the trustees raised money for the preliminary plans to be drawn up and submitted to the state agency for approval.

Work on the renovations is not expected to begin until 2016 at the earliest.

“It’ll be a few years before the state reaches us,” she said.

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